The Final Divorce Decree is Not Etched in Stone

Divorce decree document and court gavelA great deal of thought and compromise goes into the development of a Texas divorce decree. However, obtaining a signed “Final Decree of Divorce” does not guarantee that the legal proceedings are over once and for all. Our Courts retain jurisdiction over the case, and over the conservatorship and support of your children, long after the original divorce proceeding is concluded.

When either party fails to meet the obligations set forth in that decree, state law provides a means to petition the Court to enforce those terms. The Texas Family Code also provides a means for post-Decree modifications if it can be established that such changes are justified by the law and in the best interest of the parties’ children.

There are any number of situations that can arise which might make it permanently or temporarily impossible for one or both parties to meet the requirements of the divorce decree. Each Austin divorce attorney at GoransonBain Ausley stresses the importance of going through the proper legal modification process to protect the entire family from future turmoil.

Avoid the Temptation of Informally Bypassing Divorce Terms

Most lives change over time, and it is reasonable to expect any number of changes after divorce, such as the following:

  • A job loss that prevents a spouse from paying child support.
  • A major salary increase that justifies increased child support.
  • The need for an out-of-state move by a parent with primary custody.
  • Interests or activities of the children that necessitate changes in the possession schedule and other elements of the initial parenting plan.

Change word on group of stones on the sandIn some cases, ex-spouses who do not get along attempt to take the law into their own hands. They may try to enforce the terms of their divorce by taking actions to equalize perceived slights. For example, the custodial mother might refuse scheduled visitation when the father falls behind in child support payments. Just as often, however, exes have good relationships, so they decide they can informally agree to changes. This might be the case when a parent agrees to temporarily reduce or waive child support payments from the parent who just lost a job.

But what happens when that parent finds another job that pays twice the salary of the lost job? The chances are that neither parent predicted such an event. Maybe the newly-employed parent wants to stick with the original agreement, possibly without repaying the unpaid child support.

Informal friendly agreements are seldom contractually sound. Courts do not recognize such changes any more than a unilateral change made out of malice. In either case, ex-spouses can find themselves facing the wrath of a judge or otherwise “losing out” if the other party decides to renege on the “agreement” and take the matter to court.

Keeping it Legal Always Makes Sense

Granted, rare circumstances may require instant action, as might be the case when a custodial parent fears for the safety of the children in the hands of the other parent. Even in those situations, however, a call to a knowledgeable family law attorney can immediately set you on the path to legally-justified actions, and help you obtain the necessary court orders to protect your children and your interests.

Whenever you require a change to your Final Decree of Divorce, contact GoransonBain Ausley to learn the steps needed to pursue a legally-acceptable modification.

This post was written by Esther Donald.

Esther R. Donald

“Divorce is a complex and emotional process; I realize that clients need a strong advocate with a level head who will listen attentively and allow them to vent, process and heal.”  — Esther R. Donald